Mindful photography

Whitesands Summer Sunset by Heather Bennett

Mindful photography – sometimes known as slow or contemplative photography – is all about being creative and ‘in the moment’. It’s a therapeutic process where you use your camera to connect with the world around you and improve your mental health.

With mindfulness photography, you slow down and enjoy the process, rather than rush to take a perfect picture. In fact, it doesn’t matter what your images look like because the beauty of this activity is that there’s no judgement by you or anyone else.

Mindfulness in a pandemic

Solva Still Winter Day
Solva, Pembrokeshire, on a still winter day, by Heather Bennett

I’ve run two careers in parallel for more than 30 years – photography and psychotherapy – and have found they complement each other. And in this time of uncertainty and lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve become more and more aware of mental health issues.

Many people are feeling isolated or have suffered the loss of a loved one. On top of that, we don’t know when life will return to some kind of normality.

And that’s why it’s so important for you to do what you can to support your mental and emotional health.

Creativity and wellbeing

Alpacca In Solva
Alpaca in Solva by Heather Bennett

People have found solace in art, such as painting, drawing or sculpting.

As a photographer, I know about the joy that can be found when you spend time with a camera, whether that’s a point-and-shoot, a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) or a mobile phone. If you use a mobile phone, there’s no need for you to carry around a lot of heavy equipment.

I’ve been encouraging people to work with mindfulness in photography for some time, and I run mindful photography courses when such activities can take place.

I Am Watching
I am watching by Heather Bennett

What is mindfulness?

The practice of mindfulness was little known 20 years ago but has now become an important tool for improving mental wellbeing.

In its simplest form, it’s a process of existing in the moment and giving that moment your complete, quiet attention. It counterbalances your urge to keep moving, and it enhances the connection between your soul and the world around you.

In my therapy practice, I’ve used photography (and art) as a tool to help and support people with depression, bereavement, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues.

Mindful photography tips

Be non-judgemental

The most important thing is not to judge the images you’re taking. Remember you’re doing this for yourself and not for anyone else, so let go of any attachment to the outcome. And remind yourself we all have a different vision of the world.

Wellie Welcomes Me Back
Wellie the cat by Heather Bennett

Forget about complicated equipment

Your phone will do just as effective a job as an upmarket digital camera. And if you do use a DSLR, put it in auto so you don’t get caught up in complex adjustments.

Take it slow

Think about what you want to take before you snap away. Slow down and step into a creative space so you can observe what you’re about to photograph.

Vary your point of view

Look at things from different points of view. Kneel on the ground and look up or change from landscape to portrait.

Think about the detail

Jackdaw by Heather Bennett

Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, try picking out details, as well as capturing views or the whole of a still life. I enjoy taking pictures of locks on doors, letterboxes, and the centres of flowers near my home in Solva, Pembrokeshire.

New Form Of Lockdown
New form of lockdown by Heather Bennett

Slow photography in lockdown

Focus on your space

If you’re self-isolating or unable to go out, focus on the world inside your space. Look at objects from different angles, in a variety of lights, move things around, place them next to other things you think they belong with or take some pictures of yourself.

I found myself recently taking pictures of a beautiful pair of Fair Isle socks my friend knitted for me for Christmas. It was the colours that attracted me. But I also found myself thinking about the wools and where they came from, the sheep, the spinning into yarn, and of the loving kindness of my friend, who spent many hours knitting them. They connected me to her, even when I couldn’t see her.

Go on a mindful photography walk

First Sign Of Spring
First sign of spring by Heather Bennett

As you walk, listen to the sounds around you, including the crunch of the ground beneath your feet. And what can you smell?

Try to go alone and let go of any idea about how it will be; this is an exercise in just being. Maybe say to yourself before you go out, ‘I will only take 10 photographs today’, which will help you focus on what you’re seeing.

Be grateful

Make a file on your computer and call it ‘Gratitude’. As the days progress, add your pictures to the file. You can look at them regularly with a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the things you can see, even in this limiting time.

Be inspired

For more photography inspiration, explore my website. You can also follow me on Instagram @solvagallery or on Facebook @HeatherBennettPhotographyPembrokeshire